Over the weekend the Karora folks got together to talk about "product stuff". I enjoy these types of things, as pretty much everything is up for discussion, without that nagging "reality" constraint rearing its ugly head.
One of the topics that came up was the idea of adopting the "mashup" concept that the Web 2.0 crowd is so enamored with at the moment, and applying it to desktop integration via AppConnector. For those who haven't encountered it yet, a mashup is a hybrid web application that uses open APIs to bring content from disparate sites together seamlessly. Its genesis was from the music world (known as "Bastard Pop" on wikipedia). The prototypical mashup site is HousingMaps, which combines craigslist.org with google maps.
While mashups are interesting technically, the problem has been how to build a business around it. There is an excellent discussion here: Some Problems with Mashups. The good news for Karora is that the problems identified here apply to web apps. When you shine the light from the perspective of a) a desktop native integration tool, and b) a product whose focus is business instead of consumers, you come up with some compelling goodness.
Here is how:
- Can you add value? AppConnector adds value by making complex processes simple. For example, one of the most common things people do with AppConnector is add a button to a toolbar that brings up documents associated with whatever I am looking at when I click it. Think about it for a moment - with one click the user can bring up related documents without having to copy and paste, or alt-tab to another application (assuming it is running in the first place). It makes the users life better, and increases the value of the underlying applications.
- Can you build real applications? Being a thick client tool, AppConnector doesn't have the technical issues that web applications have. Want long running transactions and state? No problem - the entire PC is dedicated to the user.
- Consumer processes are simple. This one hits the sweet spot for AppConnector - it excels at making complex business workflows simple from a user point of view. It is also simple from an integrators point of view incidentally.
- Consumer business models are tough on mashups. This gets to the heart of the problem for web based mashups - who pays? For AppConnector there are a number of ways the underlying systems are licensed. If you have purchased an enterprise license, you would want to be be getting more value out of it so that works well (provided you have the infrastructure to deal with the increased usage). Per seat pricing gets a bit iffy, as you would require more seats.
Now, I'm not sure using AppConnector to integrate desktop applications can still legitimately be called a "mashup" per se, but what the heck it sure would help a lot of IT departments achieve their goals "quickly and dirtily". So, I'm all for it - let's mashup the desktop!